Feature Articles



Launched recently with the usual fanfare, NVIDIA's mainstream GeForce 8 graphics cards have quickly propagated to all the retail channels; the company and its manufacturing partners have none of the production delays plaguing its rival, ATI and the results are evident in the variety of models available and best illustrated by the recent 12-way shootout that we did on the highest end model, the GeForce 8600 GTS.

These new cards, the GeForce 8600 and 8500 series are targeted at those looking for a DirectX 10 compatible graphics card at a reasonable price point and their price ranges (US$99 - 149) reflect that. Also, besides its DirectX 10 capability, NVIDIA has bolstered the HD video processing prowess on these cards, equipping them with a new processing engine that brings unprecedented hardware acceleration for HD media playback. This is something that NVIDIA's more powerful but older G80 based graphics cards do not possess.

Unfortunately, it's not all smooth sailing for NVIDIA as our subsequent benchmarking of the GeForce 8600 GTS revealed that when it comes to price performance ratio, the GeForce 8600 GTS was not exactly the best deal. Although its scores were a significant improvement over the GeForce 7600 series, it was unable to convince us when compared against the still-cheaper Radeon X1950 PRO. In the end, the support for DirectX 10 and its new video processing engine - and some low power consumption numbers - managed to sway us some but at the moment, we aren't very enthusiastic about this new card and would heartily recommend the GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB instead.

Given such indifferent performance from the top ranked GeForce 8600 card, how would the lesser members of the series, not to mention the budget GeForce 8500 GT, perform against existing GPUs in the market now? That's where we are turning our attention to in our article today. Before we proceed, we have listed the specifications of the present members in the GeForce 8600/8500 series below. It's quite clear that the GeForce 8600 GT is a slower clock variant of the GTS while the GeForce 8500 GT has a slightly different and of course inferior G86 core that suits its value-oriented nature.

The G84/86 Compared
Model NVIDIA GeForce 8600 GTS 256MB NVIDIA GeForce 8600 GT 256MB NVIDIA GeForce 8500 GT 256MB
Core Code G84 G86 G86
Transistor Count 289 million 289 million 210 million
Manufacturing Process (microns) 0.08 0.08 0.08
Core Clock 675MHz 540MHz 450MHz
Vertex Shaders 32 Stream Processors (operating at 1450MHz) 32 Stream Processors (operating at 1190MHz) 16 Stream Processors (operating at 900MHz)
Rendering (Pixel) Pipelines
Pixel Shader Processors
Texture Mapping Units (TMU) or Texture Filtering (TF) units 16 16 8
Raster Operator units (ROP) 8 8 8
Memory Clock 2000MHz DDR3 1400MHz DDR3 800MHz DDR2
DDR Memory Bus 128-bit 128-bit 128-bit
Memory Bandwidth 32.0GB/s 22.4GB/s 12.8GB/s
Molex Power Connectors Yes Nil Nil
DVI Output Support 2 x Dual-Link 2 x Dual-Link   1 x Dual-Link
HDCP Support Yes Vendor Dependent Vendor Dependent